The British Empire Library

Never a Dull Moment: The Autobiography of John Millard - Administrator, Soldier and Farmer

by John Millard

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by N.O. Durdant-Hollamby (District Commissioner, Tanganyika 1949-1962)
This is an apt title for the story of an all-rounder who has enjoyed life to the full and who has perhaps, some might say, found it all too good to be true! Indeed a more sententious critic could even categorise the book as a smug saga but although a degree of self-satisfaction does emerge in its pages (as happens with many autobiographies) this is far too harsh a verdict to make in this case.

The author writes from experience in many fields and countries and he must have taken great pains over the years to chronicle the incidents which provide the material for his narrative. In doing this he has achieved his aim of portraying both the highs and lows in various situations and careers. He describes these lucidly and entertainingly and with an easy style in which, inter alia, he makes light of adversity. Readers will be impressed, too, by the tidy layout and structure of the volume, the well-defined illustrations at the head of each chapter, the range of black and white photographs and the superb cover in colour which shows John Millard in, I suspect, a favourite fishing pose against the majestic background of his beloved Mount Kilimanjaro.

John's account compares favourably, in my view, with several others I have read written by persons who served and farmed in the colonies, and he certainly captures the atmosphere of Africa. Although not a scholarly dissertation, his review is, nonetheless, expansive and diverse in scope because it is not confined to African affairs. His encounters during World War II in many theatres as a Gunner Colonel, Staff Officer and Leader of Irregulars (Millard's Scouts) receive due comment and are interesting, as is his amusing description of his time in Whitehall in the Colonial Office, where he worked with the late Sir Ralph Purse (the renowned Director of Recruitment) on the selection of key administrative personnel for the post-war Colonial Service. Never a Dull Moment is not penned in official Government-type language nor is it weighed down with countless appendices. Another plus, and so essential a tool in a non-fiction book, is the efficient index of names and places.

The affection for his family is apparent throughout and this is well illustrated by his sensitive handling of the effects of the serious and tragic riding accident sustained by his wife, Corinne. His love of the countryside and for South Africa (where he was born), the United Kingdom and especially Ireland (his wife's homeland), all occupy a prominent place in his thoughts. His final philosophical words, written no doubt from his contented retirement base in Kenya, state:-

"1 am not afraid of tomorrow, for I have seen yesterday, and I love today".

These form a fitting conclusion and a delightful variant on the saying 'Do not dwell on the past, live for the present and let the future take care of itself'.

In conclusion, whilst not a must for the general reader, former members of the Colonial Service, and particularly District Commissioners and District Officers from the days of Tanganyika, will find it difficult to resist. My recommendation therefore would be to get hold of a copy of this evocative record as soon as you can. Good yam - it merits full marks for readability!

British Empire Book
John Millard
Silent Books Ltd


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